Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Rose came to stay for a few days a month ago. About nine years' old, Rose it seems had been owned by an elderly person who perhaps passed away which is how she wound up at the shelter. The first two nights she lay by my front door as if waiting for her owner to walk in. She was clearly quite shell-shocked, the poor thing, but by day three Rose was wagging her tail and she even slept a little closer to my bedroom so she could keep one eye on me and one on the door. Such a pretty little thing, Rose was snapped up by a lovely couple on the Upper West Side after only a week - a happy story!
A tentative link perhaps, but I wanted to talk a bit today about names and using them. All too often we start to use our dog's name willy-nilly. The perception has always been that we must use their name to get their attention. Well, that's wrong. We can get their attention simply by picking up a toy, opening the fridge, coming home.. This perception has led to over-use of a name. For an example, see how confusing this must be to a dog. "Rose, come!", "Rose, stay!" Rose, sit!" "Rose, down!" Oh dear, no wonder our dogs start to ignore their names. It's a useless command to them. The other problem is that it is all to easy to blurt out "Rose, NO!" or use the name when reprimanding a dog. You should know by now, that reprimanding is not something I agree with anyway, but it is even more important to NEVER use a dog's name when correcting. Far better to use words like "Off!", "Drop!", "Quiet!". In training, try to use a dog's name, ONLY when you think they will respond and it is for something positive b) use it infrequently.  Like with commands, if you keep on repeating the name or word, the dog will become immune to it, and c) try and use it only with "Come!" in training so, "Rose, come!" – after all, what we want nine times out of ten is for our dog, upon hearing its name, is to focus on us and come to us. I'm not saying don't use it when you're playing and rubbing ears or whatever it is your dog likes - that's not training time. Use it with feeding, and treats and all the things that will make your dog associate his or her name with wanting to be with you. By the way, did you know that last year the most popular names in North America for dogs were Buddy, Max, Daisy, Jack and Lucy. And in the UK (my home country) they were Molly, Alfie, Max, Barney and Poppy. Seems we all want to give our dogs human names. Personally, I like Andrew..